“You See the Very Sharp Edge of the Problems of Prejudice in Town”: Youth Service Providers’ Perceptions of a Regional Community Facebook Group

Sarah Clifford, James A. Smith, Benjamin Christie

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    Abstract

    The prolific growth of social media in recent years has provided new forums which allow engagement in local town discussions; particularly via community Facebook groups. This study seeks to understand the role of community Facebook groups in a regional town in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia; particularly how they are used to portray youth, and their relevance to a grassroots youth justice reinvestment process. This research arose due to direct concern from a community working group. Seventeen semi-structured interviews, with 18 participants, were conducted with service providers in Katherine, NT. The data was then inductively thematically analyzed, resulting in six themes: staying informed in a regional context; vilifying youth and combating this; racism; impact on youth; tensions in positioning youth: right versus left; and adopting a strengths-based approach to youth. Community Facebook groups were noted as an important factor for staying informed in a remote context. As a key medium within the town, Facebook groups should be considered a source of community discussion and an appropriate avenue to influence community opinion. The racialization of community discussions about “problem youth” indicates a segregation issue in the town, which has been noted for many years. Community education and the promotion of the youth justice work currently being implemented in the town were considered key in changing mindsets and ultimately behaviors. Importantly, research and community development programs alike should consider the community Facebook group as a medium for positive social action.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalSocial Media and Society
    Volume6
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

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